Posts Tagged ‘Harris Interactive’
I attended a Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum about one week ago. However, I can now only think in terms of PHS (pre-Hurricane Sandy) and PostHS. It feels like the world has been turned upside down since life has not yet to normal. My neighborhood is basically fine (meaning we have power) but everything seems different in some indescribable way. Since I cannot get to the office, I have been working at home. We will see what Monday brings.
I wanted to write about the survey that Harris Interactive did with the Council on the connection between brand and corporate reputation. This topic was the theme of the forum. As you know, this is a subject we at Weber Shandwick also know well — take a look at our report on The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust. The Harris Interactive study analyzed results from several of their own studies (50,000 consumers) and VP Robert Fronk concluded: “Marketers might profitably think of themselves as operating in the corporate reputation business, while corporate communicators might think of themselves as operating more deeply in the product marketing business.” As we also found, brand and corporate reputation are now indivisible. The Harris Interactive analysis looked at three industries — auto, B2B and Food/Beverage. It is worth looking at their brochure, Hidden Harmony, which I highlighted above because it shows what drives purchase consideration and recommendation. To give you a taste, below are the drivers of purchase consideration for the auto industry. I was fascinated by the importance given by consumers of how employees are treated when it comes to perceptions of reputation in the auto industry. And no surprise that trust is high on the list for both brand and reputation. Brand consideration appears to be very me-centric (how it fits with my own image, seeing it everywhere, brand is exciting). For reputation, in constrast, the drivers are very company-centric. They are different but when strengthened together, they are a powerful punch. They should not be siloed.
DRIVERS OF PURCHASE CONSIDERATION—AUTO INDUSTRY
Fits with how I think of myself
Emotional appeal-trust, admiration and respect
Brand has an excitement surrounding it
Rewards its employees fairly
Trust the brand to fulfill its promises
Offers high quality products and services
I see this brand everywhere I go
Offers products and services that are a good value for the money
It is not every day that I read an article several times over and then take notes. That is what I did after reading Graeme Trayner’s paper presented at the Annual Market Research Society Conference, March 2012. Its title is “Emblems and Shortcuts: Rethinking Corporate Reputation Research.” Graeme is a partner at Brunswick in opinion research and a fellow reputation-follower. I first heard his name when I found a wonderful research article about the concept of the “permanent campaign.”
I basically agree with his thinking on the state of reputation research – where it has been and where it needs to go. His overarching point of view is that current reputation research might be too mechanistic, rational and simplistic for how people shape perceptions about companies today. Yes, the current framework most commonly used is powerful because it easily reduces the many drivers of reputation to six or seven key dimensions such as financial performance, quality of products, leadership, etc. Despite its simplicity, that is the beauty of it. I think he is referring to some of the publically available frameworks from Harris Interactive, Reputation Institute and possibly Fortune’s Most Admired. I see his point that these methods make an enormous assumption that people are rational actors and make decisions about what companies to buy from based on these preordained reputation drivers. And, these frameworks do not take into account reality, that is, different stakeholders see companies differently (financial analysts do not view company reputations the same way as consumers or the media do). He posits that this way of thinking dilutes what is really happening today. On the other hand, I should add that the beauty of these frameworks are that they are mostly publically available and can serve as valuable guideposts to how companies are viewed. They serve a great benefit to companies looking to track broad perceptions over time, those without big budgets and those CEOs who do not take reputation as seriously as they should. These frameworks have their deficits and I do believe that most company leaders recognize that when taking advantage of them. The solution is to use them as snapshots but to really gauge reputation, a company needs to customize their own research.
Graeme calls for a newer approach that takes neuroscience and behavioral economics into consideration. Essentially he calls for greater attention to how mental shortcuts, symbols and what the crowd is thinking to help us make choices about companies. He calls for a fresh approach that takes into account “a series of interconnected associations and frames, rather than a static set of reputation drivers.” The world of perception is indeed one big network of images and loose connections, particularly when we are bombarded with so much information today.
There are many things he writes about that are important to think about when it comes to reputation (which is why I took notes to keep for myself). A few stood out when it comes to identifying the cues and symbols that help shape reputation perceptions.
· The idea that people use fast or slow thinking (he cites Kahneman, 2011) when it comes to forming opinions. Slow thinking is “deliberative and logical,” whereas fast thinking is what we do most of the time and involves embedding impressions and intuitions about companies and things in our minds. When I think about how impressions get shaped about companies and leaders for most people whose livelihood is not reputation, it often feels like “hearsay” or “half-truths” certainly do the trick. For example, JPMorganChase was a reputation champion until we heard about the $2 billion trading loss on May 10th. On May 9th, they were a leader and one day later, a laggard. For most people, they just heard something fleeting on the news and it became a permanent stain on their reputation. Who has the time to drill down into the facts?
· He also cites the idea posited by Robert Heath (2011) on low involvement processing. In essence, people are forming images without conscious awareness – “people are still taking in images, associations and messages from advertising, even if they are not fully engaged.” We can’t take it all in but we are taking it in at a low level. And these perceptions stick as well. I may never buy a Boeing aircraft but I form impressions through bits and pieces of scrap information.
· The part that I also like thinking about is the concept he cites about “social copying.” With the pervasiveness of the Internet today, people have access to what everyone else is thinking. That online reinforcement that everyone likes blue M&Ms further deepens one’s thinking about whether a company is a good one or not so good one. “Understanding the social ‘stickiness’ of aspects of a reputation is crucial to identifying how to evolve corporate profiles.” For this reason, in my view, online reputation management is so critical to managing reputation today.
He recommends some thoughtful ways to embed this thinking in corporate communications campaigns for the betterment of reputation. These are many of the things that we do every day in this field. We urge companies to find that one important “signature” initiative that we sometimes refer to as thought leadership and make it memorable, distinctive and impactful. A good example might be IBM’s Smarter Planet. Graeme calls this an “emblematic initiative.” Applying muscle to this initiative is critical. His other suggestion to corporate communicators is to start with an issue that tackles a societal problem. The key is making that known and making sure it aligns with the business. A good example is TOMS shoes, a shoe company that donates a pair to a person in need every time someone buys from them. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that when I was looking for summer soles.
Take a read when you want to slow-think and be deliberative. It feels good.
I am in Florida now about to speak on a panel about Corporate America and how it can restore its reputation. The panel is being convened at the annual summit of National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Getting ready to talk about reputation and how we can repair America’s reputation for good business. A few things are on my mind right now as I was preparing for my remarks. First, has anyone noticed that all the candidates for president this year are always speaking in front of large machinery at manufacturing sites? The manufacturing industry definitely has the wind at its back and should capitalize on this momentum of favorability (and free publicity from the candidates). Also, in a Harris Interactive survey this year, when Americans were asked about the reputation of corporate America, understandably the numbers were not great. Only about one quarter had a positive perception (with only 2% saying very good, UGH) and barely 10% saying it had improved since 2011. What I found particularly interesting was that when Americans were asked which industries would be part of the solution to the problem of a poor corporate America reputation….they answered that the technology, manufacturing and retail industries were most likely to help improve perceptions. Least likely places to expect help were the governmental and the financial sectors, not surprising. Anyhow, thought I would share these reputation findings as I figure out how to talk about combating the reputation of corporate greed that seems to follow us around these days.
- 95% (a lot) of major companies have suffered at least one reputational crisis in the past 20 years
- Major companies suffer a “significant” reversal of fortune every seven years
- One out of two (50%) of these reputational failures were tied to having the wrong business strategy or model; 15% from lawsuits; 10% from merger and acquisition issues. Interestingly, the CEO of Willis Global Solutions Consulting Group said that none of the crises were related to natural disasters until 2011. That is hard to believe since there have been plenty of natural catastrophes over the past 20 years that should have impacted companies such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, food shortages, cyclones, earthquakes, SARS, etc.
Also wanted to mention a recent analysis that came from the 2012 Harris Interactive Reputation Quotient (RQ) and was reported in PRWeek. Harris Interactive reported that advertising has less of an impact on company reputation than social media or new stories. Research continues to show that word of mouth from news stories with negative information about companies drives perceptions more than we realize. We learned that in our Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust. Consumers are talking about more about company wrong doing than right doing and advertising may not be as able as it used to be in rehabilitating brand reputations.
Enjoy the Oscars if you are watching tomorrow!
Harris Interactive just released their annual RQ (reputation quotient) survey among the U.S. public. This is year 12 for the Harris RQ – that’s a long time and underscores the value that this kind of research brings. Harris conducts the survey among consumers on what they call the most visible companies in the US along with others that represent major industries. The study starts by asking people to nominate or name the companies that stand out as having the best and worst reputations overall. The most nominated companies form the core group asked about. For this reason, one usually finds that those companies that have been in the headlines for reputational scandals are measured. Besides the usual ranking of who’s on first and who’s struck out, Harris identifies several trends:
- Among their “elite” reputation winners (i.e. most highly regarded), two reputation drivers stand out – “looks like a company that has high ethical standards” and “tends to outperform its competitors.” Again, this underscores the importance of speaking up and being an industry leader.
- How companies communicate also drives reputation according to Harris – communicating Sincerely, Accurately and Consistently correlates highly with positive reputation. Transparency and empathy count.
- An additional theme that Harris highlights is that those companies that “support the infrastrucuture” of Americans’ lives at work and at home also drives positive corporate perceptions. This means that companies that help people get their jobs done easily at home and at work tend to be esteemed. Interesting notion.
- All the major industry sectors saw year over year reputation improvements — particularly automotive.
Of course, there are always clouds and rays of light in any silver lining. And here it is….66% say that the reputation of corporate America is not good but there’s hope for improvement. This figure has not moved much from the 65% who said the same thing last year. So I’d say a solid thumbs down with cautious optimism. However, 22% say the reputation of corporate America is good with room for improvement (up four percentage points from last year). Not so terrible. A miniscule 1% says corporate America’s reputation is great and can’t get any better (same as last year). I sure would like to find out more about them to see what they are thinking or or if they are living in the clouds! Thankfully only 12% of the American public say corporate America’s reputation is terrible and there is little that can be done about it. That’s pretty definitive. So all in all, hope is alive for corporate America and for those of us in the reputation management arena, it is in our hands.
I’ve been very busy so have not had a chance to mention two studies related to reputation that are worth reviewing.
The first one is about industry reputation which continues to intrigue me. The Harris Interactive Poll found that the most credible industries among 2,152 adult Americans are supermarkets, hospitals, banks and electric and gas utilities. They have been doing this research since 2003. Not too surprisingly but disturbing nevertheless was that when asked this question about 17 industries, a large 48% said “none of these” industries are trustworthy. This was the highest number of people saying this since 2003. Overall, no one industry is doing particularly well and this speaks to the overall downturn in perceptions of business over the decade.
Base: All U.S. adults
|Electric and gas utilities||n/a||n/a||14||14||15||16||16||19||+3||n/a|
|Computer hardware companies||27||29||27||20||18||17||23||16||-7||-11|
|Computer software companies||22||25||22||23||17||16||20||15||-5||-7|
|Packaged food companies||23||23||21||14||12||13||16||11||-5||-12|
|Pharmaceutical and drug companies||13||14||9||7||11||10||9||11||+2||-2|
|Life insurance companies||11||15||10||11||10||9||10||10||-||-1|
|Health insurance companies||7||9||9||7||7||7||7||8||+1||+1|
|Managed care companies such as HMOs||4||5||5||4||5||5||5||7||+2||+3|
|None of these||37||32||37||40||44||44||44||48||+4||11|
|Note: Multiple-response question; n/a = industry not asked about that year|
The second survey that should be on your radar is research by Nora Ganim Barnes. She has been diligently surveying Fortune 500 companies with regard to their social media usage. Social reputation is a growing component of reputation which is why I am writing about this. This is the third survey that she has done on this topic at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Here are some of her key findings for 2010 (conducted in August/September 2010) which are great to track over time.
1. One quarter (23%) of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing corporate blog with a recent post over the past 12 months. Two years ago, only 16% had blogs so this is a healthy increase.
2. When it comes to industries, the industries with the most blogs are computer software, peripherals and office equipment. This includes companies such as HP, Microsoft, Apple. There have been increases in blogs in the specialty retail industry (Best Buy as an example) and telecommunications as well (Verizon, AT&T).
3. About one third (32%) of top 100 ranked Fortune 500 companies had a blog, a slight dip from 38% in 2008.
4. A whopping 90% of Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions. That is good news to see that these blogs are interactive and not one-way.
5. They looked at corporate Twitter accounts (had to have tweeted in the past 30 days) and 60% had Twitter accounts, a jump up from 35% in 2009. Nine of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies had accounts and consistently posted. Specialty retail companies were the most likely to have Twitter accounts. Since they are so consumer-facing, makes sense.
6. A fairly large 56% of the Fortune 500 companies are on Facebook. Not bad but not up to the level it should be and will be over time.
Industry reputations are still failing but social media seems to be exploding (Twitter and Facebook) among the top companies in the US. We are witnessing the Great American Reach Out. Industry reputations could begin the climb upwards if there was greater adoption of interactivity. No doubt industries will take this seriously and jump onboard. CEOs as well will become more socialized in the years ahead.
Industry reputation is critical to companies today. It is many times more important than it used to be. Years ago, one company could have its reputation damaged and it did not tarnish the reputation of its peers. Today, one rotten apple affects the entire industry which is why we now hear so much about sectors when it comes to reputation – the financial sector, the pharmaceutical sector, the oil sector, the automotive sector, etc. The media frequently reports on various industry associations banding together to promote their reputations. Industry reputations rise and fall but whatever problems they may have, the reputation after shocks for industries seem to linger for a long time. Whereas individual companies can repair their reputation in due course, it often seems harder for industry reputations to do the same. Weber Shandwick asked this question of executives a few years ago in our Safeguarding Reputation research and found that executives the world over consider industry reputation much harder to manage than company reputation (57% vs. 39%).
Harris Interactive’s latest research on reputation among consumers asked about sector reputation. The greatest year over year reputation improvements were seen in the retail and the automotive industries. Of 13 industries studied, only the pharmaceutical industry declined from 2008 to 2009. The financial services sector which is often in the headlines increased which I found interesting. Perhaps the recovery is lifting perceptions of that industry and people believe that reform and stablility is finally on its way. Maybe they feel that there have been enough apologies and it is time to move on. Hard to know without asking.
|Positive Ratings 2008||Positive Ratings 2009||Change|
|2.Travel and Tourism||48||52||4|
|4. Consumer Products||43||49||6|
|13. Financial Services||11||16||5|
Annual RQ 2009 USA, April 2010
When it comes to overall corporate reputation, consumers are not as negative as they were one year ago, according to Harris Interactive’s research. In 2009, 81% said today’s reputation of corporate America was not good or terrible. This compares favorably to 2008 when 88% said so. Still the figures are damming. Harris Interactive reports that the increase in perceptions of good corporate reputations in the U.S. is the first increase in four years. We will take whatever we can get. Let the “good” times roll.
Over the past few weeks, there have been several reputation rankings released. I am stunned by the proliferation of rankings on reputation. It is getting harder to keep track of whose ranking is whose and what’s behind the numbers. Whereas there used to only be one or two major reputation rankings, today there are scores. We (my team at Weber Shandwick) knows because we keep track of them every day in our database called Scoreboxx. We must have over 700 primetime corporate rankings that companies can compete on and receive recognition. These rankings fall into broad categories such as corporate responsibility, workplace, diversity, leadership, etc. Years ago, a company only had to worry about Fortune’s Most Admired Companies survey. Now you have to be on the alert for lists that give you a thumbs up or thumbs down.
In the past few weeks, we have seen the release of Harris Interactive’s Reputation Quotient, Reputation Institute’s Pulse Survey and Millward Brown’s Global Brands (BrandZ). All good and “reputable” lists. However, they are all coming out at about the same time and comingling in people’s minds. Years ago when I was at Fortune, we conducted a landmark survey about business readership of business magazines. A few years later, Forbes conducted their own readership survey of business magazines with a twist that confused the marketplace. The two surveys were similar but because many people still confused Fortune and Forbes, Fortune’s competitive advantage was weakened.
My reputation advocate friend Joy Sever is right when she says that all these lists are diluting one another because most people do not understand the differences between them and how the data are gathered. She was right to also say that pretty soon it will all be about the reputation of the reputation rankings. It seems like that has already begun.
The most important way to measure reputation is to take these reputation rankings into account but focus primarily on your own customized research that drills down into your most important stakeholders’ perceptions and most critical reputation dimensions. By tracking your own company reputation vs. competitors over time, reputation-building has its best shot.